A psychologist named Cliff Arnall christened the third Monday in January as “Blue Monday.” According to him, the weather, debt from the holidays, and broken New Year’s resolutions combined to make yesterday “the most depressing day of the year.” Except that it wasn’t. Psychologists say the formula Arnall used has been “effectively debunked” and tell us that “there is no such thing as the most depressing day of the year.”
Consider some other news that doesn’t say what we might think it says.
Gallup is reporting: “In US, More Adults Identifying as LGBT.” If that’s all you read, you might assume that their percentage is escalating. If you measure the number of LGBT people in America by the frequency with which they are portrayed in movies and on television, you might assume that a quarter of the population is LGBT. Unsurprisingly, according to a recent survey, Americans estimate that 23 percent of Americans are gay or lesbian.
Here’s the fact: the LGBT portion of the American population has risen from 3.5 percent to 4.1 percent over the last four years. The percentage equates to ten million of the nation’s 326 million people.
Another example: despite published reports, Christians who regularly attend worship do not divorce at a higher rate than non-Christians. The opposite is true, in fact. And another: despite conventional wisdom, biblical Christianity is not declining in America. What is declining is the number of people who attend theologically liberal denominations. And what is especially declining is the number of nominal Christians. Many no longer consider themselves Christians, joining the ranks of the “nones.”
Paradoxically, the last fact is very good news.
Several years ago, a couple moved from Manhattan to Dallas and joined the church where I was pastor. The husband made the surprising observation that it was easier to be a Christian in New York City than in Dallas. He explained that in Manhattan everyone knows if they are Christian or not. There is no spiritual ambiguity. In Dallas, by contrast, many say they are Christians because they’re not Jewish or Muslim and have a membership in a church somewhere. He noted that “Churchianity” can be a major obstacle to Christianity.
My friend was right.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer warned that “cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our Church.” He defined our enemy: “Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”
Bonhoeffer calls us to “costly grace” which “is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life.”
A culture that confuses fact with opinion and insists on tolerance over truth is no friend to biblical discipleship. Christians in America who stand publicly for basic biblical morality are more likely to face rejection than at any time in my lifetime. But our challenge is our opportunity. You and I have the privilege of joining the apostles in obeying God rather than men (Acts 5:29) and, if opposed, “rejoicing that [we] were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name” (v. 41).
When last did it cost you something significant to follow Jesus?
Publication date: January 17, 2017
For more from the Denison Forum on Truth and Culture, please visit www.denisonforum.org.
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